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Space discovery: the future of the UAE?

Interest in space has grown fast in recent years in many countries. Especially in the United Arab Emirates who has set ambitious plans for the next 10 years with missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. An opportunity to shine in the field of sciences and also to diversify its economy.

Space industry could become one of the UAE’s most promising sectors and a key pillar of economic growth over the next 50 years. A white paper released by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry even identified several areas of the space economy that offers the country a big investment potential, ranging from space mining to stations, settlements, law, sustainability, tourism, and space academies which include preparing astronauts for commercial flights and developing and manufacturing spacecraft components.

In 2016, the country developed its first National Space Policy with the mission of crafting the future of the UAE as a leader in space and in september 2019,  the first Emirati was sent into Mars as part of a three-member crew that blasted off on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan for an eight-day mission, thus becoming the first Arab country and fifth nation to reach the Red Planet.  A success that has been a vehicle for economic and societal transformation and paves the way for new investment opportunities and public-private sector partnerships that could enhance the country’s economic competitiveness and position as a global innovation leader.

A space for economic transformation and innovation

This UAE’s mission to Mars plans to offer the global science community new and useful insights about Mars in order to understand better how and why the planet is uninhabitable for humans, In addition to attracting foreign investments, the UAE expect to see the mission “Hope Probe” will also help enhance the country’s competitive capabilities across various economic sectors, especially in innovation, technology and advanced scientific fields, something which will strengthen the UAE’s global reputation and position in the space industry among other vital fields. The Hope probe or Al-Amal in Arabic, is a  $200 million project that was launched on July 20th 2020 from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Station in order to study and gather data on the red planet’s atmosphere with the help of three highly specialized instruments developed by the Emirati team: a camera to photograph Mars and study its lower atmosphere, an ultraviolet spectrometer that will detect the planet’s levels of carbon monoxide and oxygen, and an infrared spectrometer that will measure Martian dust, ice clouds and water. It also includes overseeing the realisation of the first scientific city on the Red Planet as part of the 2117 Mars programme. But this space conquest doesn’t stop there since the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre plans to send the first Arab mission with Emirati astronauts to the moon by 2024, a project  which is part of the country new 2021-2031 strategy and includes plans related to space missions and satellites.  

Creating a new generation of aerospatial scientist

The UAE government has launched various campaigns to expand the country’s science, technology, engineering and math sector, it’s even the first country to have a minister of artificial intelligence and its growing space program is an important part of that. Emirati officials see the Mars mission as helping drive interest in science and space exploration among the country’s youth, enabling growth in sectors that will be crucial for a post-oil future. One of the key area of the program is also to launch the Arab Space Discovery Programme, which intends to transfer knowledge and expertise in space sciences in collaboration with the Arab universities and institutions. A way to prevent the brain drain and encourage young emirati scientists to stay in their country and participate to the development of the Arab space discovery.